Bacillus weihenstephanensis can readily evolve for increased endospore heat resistance without compromising its thermotype

Tom Dongmin Kim, Katrien Begyn, Sadhana Khanal, Fatima Taghlaoui, Marc Heyndrickx, Andreja Rajkovic, Frank Devlieghere, Chris Michiels, Abram Aertsen

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Proper elimination of bacterial endospores in foods and food processing environment is challenging because of their extreme resistance to various stresses. Often, sporicidal treatments prove insufficient to eradicate the contaminating endospore population as a whole, and might therefore serve as a selection pressure for enhanced endospore resistance. In the sporeforming Bacillus cereus group, Bacillus weihenstephanensis is an important food spoilage organism and potential cereulide producing pathogen, due to its psychrotolerant growth ability at 7 °C. Although the endospores of B. weihenstephanensis are generally less heat resistant compared to their mesophilic or thermotolerant relatives, our data now show that non-emetic B. weihenstephanensis strain LMG 18989T can readily and reproducibly evolve to acquire much enhanced endospore heat resistance. In fact, one of the B. weihenstephanensis mutants from directed evolution by wet heat in this study yielded endospores displaying a > 4-fold increase in D-value at 91 °C compared to the parental strain. Moreover, these mutant endospores retained their superior heat resistance even when sporulation was performed at 10 °C. Interestingly, increased endospore heat resistance did not negatively affect the vegetative growth capacities of the evolved mutants at lower (7 °C) and upper (37 °C) growth temperature boundaries, indicating that the correlation between cardinal growth temperatures and endospore heat resistance which is observed among bacterial sporeformers is not necessarily causal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109072
JournalInternational journal of food microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2-Mar-2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacillus/growth & development
  • Biological Evolution
  • Depsipeptides/biosynthesis
  • Food Handling
  • Hot Temperature
  • Spores, Bacterial/growth & development


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